Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hate you like I love you

I am screaming in my head in a manner you will never recognise as me. I cannot scream that way outwardly. But you, right now, have just finished an assignment and are stretching your toes as if your whole being is expanding to embrace the universe. I hate it. That you’re expanding when I am imploding. And yet, watching you lighten up like that makes me not want to suck you into my inner world. Because it also makes me believe that there is sunlight on the other side, and that if anyone has to bask in it when I’m still on the wrong side, I’d rather that someone be you. That’s the only way I know how to love.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Good Mother!

I survived a Mother’s Day full of cloying, forwarded messages. About how the essence of motherhood is sacrifice, duty and selfless love. And I couldn’t help thinking, how convenient.

My mind went back to a year ago, when I visited my bed-ridden nani (grandmother), who went into a shock and consequently dementia, just after my grandfather’s death, with which she had lost all purpose and meaning in life. After all, he was the centre of her universe and she gave him her all - from total devotion to caustic criticism.

She does not recognise me and often lapses into a time in her life when she wasn’t yet married. I guess that’s part of repressing my grandfather’s memory altogether to deal with the trauma of his death. Her sentences contain words that signify some thing in her world, but in ours they make no sense.
On that particular day she appeared no different. I ritually introduced myself as her grand daughter. Everyone who meets her does that and she mechanically nods her head and repeats what they just said. It doesn’t seem to really register, perhaps due to the repression. But on that particular day she asked me what I did. I told her that I taught. Her eyes lit up. She smiled. And asked, “Kya padhaati hai?” (what do you teach?” I said, “Design”. She nodded her head, as if in that moment she had merged with me, my completeness feeling like her own, and said, “Bahut accha! Bahut accha!” (Wonderful! Wonderful!.) Then, as if she realised that she and I were different, her beaming face started to shrink. And with a smile wiped away, she whispered, “Mujhe bhi padhana tha” (I also wanted to teach). “Ab main padha paungi?” (Will I be able to teach now?). I tried to maintain the lightheartedness of the previous moment, because I did not yet want to acknowledge that what spoke to me was the climax of a tragedy, perhaps of our own collective making. So I reassured her, as we reassure little children when they ask us whether they will see Santa this time, that she will be able to teach soon.  But I mistook her dementia, her apparent state of being a child, for being stupid. Because she shook her head and started saying repeatedly, “Ab nahi padha paungi” (I won’t be able to teach now)

My nani was feisty. My nani wrote prolifically during her early years. She wanted to teach. She didn’t. She couldn’t. And it was not her choice.

It was a choice we made for her. We? We who lionise mothers for giving it all up for our sake. And no, of course no-one ever asks her to! She finds joy in doing that. Always. Don’t you mamma? Shouldn’t you mamma? She does. I do. I do. I do because I am not horrid. 

So lets put her up the pedestal. Make a Goddess of her. That takes care of never having to deal with her flesh and bone humanness, her heart that may beat for a lot more than a self-effacing motherhood, sometimes with deeply conflicting desires. Till she internalises the pedestal. Till it becomes part of her identity. Even if pedestals can be a very lonely place.

Thank you, mother. Archies greetings for you.

Image courtesy:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Info Junkie

I need an update
What’s new now?
And now?
And now?
Saw that?
And that?
Oh wait!
Who waits?
So last-week!
It’s happening
It’s all opening up
I gotta catch it
Not gonna miss it
Fuck! If I miss it?
And what if I’m not heard?
I gotta be heard
Not drown in voices
So many voices
But what am I gonna say?
What am I...stop thinking!
Say it
Say it as it comes
Like taking a leak
Aaaah! I feel good again!
I feel alive
I feel so alive

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Have to know, my Lord

"If I die what will be my reward?  
If I die what will be my reward? 
Have to know, I'd have to know my Lord
Have to know, have to know my Lord"
- Jesus Christ Superstar, Gethsemane

Sometimes there’s nothing that we wish more than someone with answers. Even Jesus Christ (Superstar) seemed to need God to answer his mother of all dilemmas- is it worth dying for? You wish there were a Geeta or a Bible that told you what to do. A blog, perhaps, in the age of information. A statistic pointing toward a probability. A wise man (rarely a woman in popular imagination, eh?) who will resolve it for you. It explains the timeless appeal of an authority with simple answers - from the Ten Commandments to Ten-Steps-To best sellers.

I remember reading somewhere that we believe that someone out there knows the answer to our problems- an expert, a veteran, a celebrity, a philosopher, a prime minister.. And we think it is only a matter of finding them. In fact we choose our leaders with the very belief that they know how to fix our problems. It is almost a theological belief - someone out there is a god of the problem that we are facing right now.

So it is almost an existential crisis when doubt strikes and you realise that there may be no such god. Not even a superhuman who can answer your questions with complete authority. At best you may find people who have had similar experiences. Even there, it is you who has to decide where similarities end and differences start to make all the difference. The particularities of your situation, your personality may well mean that whatever answers someone else is giving you will at best be directions, not destinations.

It is an overwhelming feeling to know that your fate is indeed in your own fallible hands. In your future, you see their laughing faces. You hear the “I told you so”s. But the worst is the whisper of your own self, reproaching the part of your self that made what can only in hindsight be seen as a bad decision. And it is hardest to live with a self-loathing self.

So you go into endless consultations with family, friends, colleagues. It is meant to be an exercise to benefit from collective experience. But somewhere amidst the main text lies the fine print that reads, “If I think and say and act as you do, I become one of you. So if I fail, you do too."

“The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his selfto; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”  
- Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom

I do not know what is the answer to this question of finding answers. I only know that at some point you jump off the cliff, hoping you would fly, knowing fully well that you may land flat on your face. It is the point where loops of thinking and rethinking seem more excruciating than taking the leap. Speaking of ‘excruciating’, if it is any solace, even Jesus Christ (Superstar) did not receive any answers from above, finally taking the veritable leap of faith, singing 

“..take me now, before I change my mind"

Saturday, January 3, 2015

To the new

To people I care about, who I hope will know that I mean them.

Begins another new year. My smart-ass side says, big deal. Yesterday 2014, today 2015, change of just a date, madness, consumerism, conspiracy, group-think, empty lives...I quite like this smart-ass side of me. Sometimes it makes sure I'm not giving in to mass hysteria or social pressures of pretending.

But then there is this other dreamy, touchy-feely, life-is-too-short-for-being-smart side of me that says, "Lets play to this crazy fiction of the new year and use it as a chance to say what rules of normal behaviour in daily life disallow us to." Today, I am letting this side speak up. 

So then, I want to first tell you that I miss you. Like really. But I don't say it otherwise because it can sound rather creepy. And uncool too.
I miss being witness to your life and you being witness to mine. I'm not saying that I wish we called each other up more often, for I know that life is happening in so many different ways to all of us, each dancing to a rhythm that is unique to his/her life, that to ask one to step out very often could turn into a tedious reporting ritual. That's not what we'd like to do to each other.
But when through an occasional call or mail, or in the odd but wonderful chance to see you again, I am reminded that you are the holy ghost in my life as I am still in yours, it makes me feel that though I have my own seat on this roller coaster called life, you can look out and see me and I can look out and see you, when we want to, and that's reassuring enough to know.

So the smart-ass side. You know how it scoffs at new year resolutions, "They're so mainstream. You need a new year for a resolution?" You don't. And yet  a couple of days ago it struck me that if you look at it as a new year resolution instead of a new year resolution, then it starts to make sense differently. It is a reminder that I can be new, if I choose to be. It is a strange thing, familiarity. Parents that wait for the child they knew to come home. Friends that hope to meet the same friend that they said goodbye to many years ago. Lovers that claim they know each other better than they know themselves. And my own self that tells me I am this or that. An elaborate set of enactments to find, define and fix each other. So then when you change, it almost seems like betrayal.

But I am beginning to see the new year resolution as something that tells me that while my past makes me who I am, my present will make me who I will be. And so like a river that makes its path as much as it is made by it, I can be myself as I also make myself. It is liberating because it acknowledges that beyond a point it is futile to analyse and know yourself because the self is not a crusty, inflexible mould. So in that sense, new year resolution revealed itself to me as a modern day 'rite of passage', passing me from being to becoming,

Why am I telling you all this? One, because you've always listened patiently to my compulsive pondering over the stuff of life. And two because it concerns us- you and I. Because if a new year resolution means that both you and I can be new individually, then perhaps we can be new together. It could mean being excited at the idea of meeting the new in you as much as feeling warm in your familiar presence. It could mean not being disappointed when you do not confirm to my idea of you because I care too much for you to nail you. It could mean letting go where there was imprisonment, It could mean hope where there was cynicism.

So then, my new year resolution is to let the new in me come to life, when it feels the need to. And to gracefully accept, even welcome, the you I have not met as much as the you I know so well.